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Ending Human Trafficking Through Increasing Community Awareness & Prevention Education (CAPE)
Organization: Rotary Action Group Against Slavery
Every leader has a network they have built over their lifetime. I firmly believe God is calling His church to end human trafficking by mobilizing them where they are to learn more about human trafficking and help elevate Community Awareness and activate the networks God has given them to help implement Prevention Education thereby starting a CAPE plan for their community. This is done through leveraging networks, creating stakeholder partnerships, and helping them achieve their mission.
With an estimated <1% of trafficking cases properly reported and tracked, an aware community, empowered and equipped with the tools to report cases will increase opportunities to root out this evil and help the victims. A community with Prevention Education in the schools will also be less of a target for traffickers when they are scouting for potential victims.
The combination of Community Awareness & Prevention Education is key to preventing human trafficking. It is not the end, but the beginning of the end.
Amelia Stansell, DGND District 7610, President-Elect of the Rotary Club of Warrenton, a mother, and a Senior Commercial Loan Officer with UVA Community Credit Union.
In 2017 Amelia attended the Atlanta Rotary International Convention where Human Trafficking was a major topic. In 2017 Amelia felt the call to invite a speaker to her Rotary Club to talk about Sex Trafficking. Little did she know then, that was just the beginning of her journey with the topic. On that August day, with the support of her Rotary Club, she formed the Fauquier Anti Sex Trafficking Alliance (FASTA). The FASTA mission is “to inoculate our community through awareness and prevention education, and supporting survivors and their families when we fail. [They] are an alliance of community organizations, agencies, and individuals working toward this common goal.”
Through this group, she works to create community awareness through a series of Community Conversations with partners such as Anti-Trafficking International, Reset 180, Fauquier County Sheriff’s Office, Homeland Security Investigations and the FBI. These forums are held in middle schools and churches since 2018.
Amelia joined the Rotary Action Group Against Slavery after speaking at the 2019 Rotary International Convention in Hamburg, Germany. She serves as the State Coordinator for Virginia. In 2021 she had the opportunity to facilitate the RAGAS Community Awareness & Prevention Education (CAPE) Strategic Action Plan and has spent the past year sharing it with clubs and districts around the world. We are honored to have her here today as she shares about Human Trafficking Globally, nationally as well as locally, and how we as Rotarians can unleash our inner superpowers to be superheroes in their community by starting a Community Awareness & Prevention Education project through the Rotary Action Group Against Slavery.
Outside of Rotary Amelia enjoys gardening, volunteering, and traveling. She and her husband are on a mission in 50 countries and 50 states before the age of 50. She is currently in 30 countries and 46 states and has 6 years to go if you want to do the math on her age. They live in Warrenton with their daughters Amelia Grace and Bitsy and their crazy orange tabby cat, Butchie.
For more information about the Rotary initiative, go to – https://ragas.online
Read the Interview Transcript
Hugh Ballou: Greetings, everyone. It’s Hugh Ballou, back for another episode of The Nonprofit Exchange. We have been doing this for eight years. We are approaching 300 episodes that are really good. We have never had one just like this. I think you will want to sit down and take notes. This will be meaningful to you.
Amelia Stansell is my guest. She is in another part of Virginia. Amelia, tell people a little bit about your background. The title of this episode is “Ending Human Trafficking Through Increasing Community Awareness and Prevention Education.” You’re representing a Rotary initiative. Why are you doing this project?
Amelia Stansell: Thank you very much for the opportunity to be here today. I am Amelia Stansell. I am a banker out here in northern Virginia. My background is I am a Rotarian and have been for 16 years. I’m a mom. I have two little girls who are seven and 10; I can’t mess that up, or I will never live it down. I’m a wife, and I’m many other things.
One of the things I go back to is I am a Rotarian. At the 2017 Rotary International convention in Atlanta, there was a huge presence of anti-trafficking content. There was a big candlelight vigil and a bunch of breakouts on human trafficking. Ashton Kutcher spoke on it. I started doing a little bit of research and learned more while I was there.
It was a huge convention, about 50,000 people. As I was walking through the House of Friendship, I run into one face I recognize, who was the district governor and the president of my club the first time around 10 years ago. I gave Steve Cook a big hug. He asked me, “What are you doing about human trafficking?” I said, “Just what I learned here.” I read this article before I left that said there had been one case of sex trafficking in every high school in Fairfax County. Where I’m at in Fauquier County, there is only one county between us and Fairfax. I was floored by that information. I had just seen it right before I left, and going and seeing all this stuff while I was there over that weekend, I was blown away.
He said, “You should have someone from Just Ask Prevention come and speak to your Rotary.” I asked, “Who are they, and how do I get ahold of them?” He said, “They are a group that our Rotary Club, the West Springfield Rotary Club, just started a few years ago after there have been several cases of sex trafficking in Fairfax County. They happen to be here.” I go, “Where?” He goes, “Here.” I go, “Where?” “Right next to us.” Right there, sitting next to us. Oh, ha! God has a sense of humor. I said, “All right, I’ll go ahead and invite them to come speak.” I thought I was doing my job.
In the summer of 2017, I checked my box and said, “I have a speaker from Just Ask Prevention coming to speak to the Rotary. I’m done. I’m out. I did my job.” Someone said, “Could you do that again and invite more people from the community?” I said okay. I put a press release up that we were having them come back and speak. One of the first calls I got was from the Department of Social services here in our county. “Why are you guys interested?” They said, “We’re interested because we know we have sex trafficking victims here in Fauquier County that are being trafficked in the surrounding counties that come back here to Fauquier because this is where they live. More people need to know about this.” “Why don’t you come and invite other people?” We had a pretty big Rotary meeting that week with 60-70 people, which is big for us. I thought I checked my box.
They then came back again and said, “How are you going to let the community know?” What do you mean, the community? I’m just a banker, a Rotarian, and a mom. How am I wrapped into this? God just kept pulling me in, is where I’m going with that. God just kept saying, “You’re going to work on this.” As much as I said no, He wasn’t taking that as an answer.
Somehow, I got involved in this work. Bringing up the community awareness and bringing in prevention education to our schools. I started working on it here at a local level. Then it’s exploded from there to now doing a lot of stuff with Rotary International with the Rotary Action Group Against Slavery on a global level.
Hugh: There is a website, RAGAS.online. Tell us a little bit about the Rotary initiative please.
Amelia: I went to an international convention and knew nothing about RAGAs. Had never heard of them. Went to the Hamburg convention in 2019. I was asked to speak on a panel in Hamburg, Germany about how local Rotarians can start a Community Awareness and Prevention Education (CAPE) stakeholder group. In the back of the room, someone raised their hand and said, “How can you take what you did in Warrenton, Virginia globally?” I was like, “What do you mean? Come talk to me. Let’s hear more about what you’re thinking.” They introduced themselves and said they were part of the Rotary Action Group Against Slavery. It would be very helpful not to have created all these wheels by myself for the last several years.
I joined RAGAS, which is about 1,000 members right now. I just looked at them yesterday because I am putting some stuff together for the next convention in Houston on Thursday. I think we’re in 70 countries on six continents. It’s a very robust organization of people who are members of Rotary International who have a passion around ending modern-day slavery, also known as human trafficking, depending on where you are in the world. Most of the world still sees it as modern slavery. In the U.S., we tend to call it human trafficking. It’s all the same thing. It’s people who come together to work on five areas of trafficking: organ trafficking, labor trafficking, sex trafficking, child soldiering, and child marriage. Those are the five areas you see around the world of trafficking. Here in America, we mostly see labor trafficking and sex trafficking.
My passion and where I feel like I have been called to work is that sex trafficking piece, raising awareness there. I can only take one bite at a time. Scale it down, and I can wrap my head around that, sort of. That was the piece I could create awareness around.
Within RAGAS, we put together a CAPE strategic plan during COVID over several months. We have been rolling it out worldwide for the last year and a half. Those are the resources you will find on that website.
Hugh: That’s great. I heard you speak on the first day of April at the district conference for our area of Rotary. I have heard of this. I have people working on it in my relationships. It’s astounding. Is it mostly girls that go into trafficking? Or is it both?
Amelia: It’s girls and boys. Worldwide, there are about 40.3 million people caught in trafficking in all five areas. In the U.S., there is a high number that is sex trafficking and labor trafficking. The sex trafficking side is predominantly female. Labor trafficking is predominantly male. Again, it’s not exclusive, one or the other. Both boys and girls are sex trafficked, and both men and women/boys and girls are labor trafficked.
Hugh: Sex trafficking is one you highlighted here. How do the girls get in there? Are they kidnapped?
Amelia: Sometimes. Most of the time, not. I know I’m not unique. I always thought of sex trafficking and human trafficking being like Taken. Liam Neeson’s daughter goes over to Europe, and she gets pulled out from underneath the bed. Liam Neeson has a special set of skills to get her. I always thought it happened to those people over there, wherever over there was. Then the more I started learning about it, it is that, but there is everything else, too.
What we see in the U.S., especially in areas like where you and I both are, in more urban areas, predominantly kids, that’s the part I’m focused on, these kids are often trafficked out of their own home, meaning they are scouted and groomed through their phones, through social media, through gaming systems. Boys will be groomed through gaming systems especially, where they think they’re gaming with a male or female friend, and it’s not. They are scouted and groomed that way. They are then oftentimes exploited after that.
What we see here is they are exploited after school. They might still be in school, getting out of school between 2 and 3, exploited from 3 until 7 or 8 at night. Home for a late dinner, sleeping in their parents’ bed, and back at school the next day. It’s shocking. Yes, there are kids who are kidnapped in white paneled vans. That still happens. Predominantly, in communities like ours, it’s not that. It’s more like what I’m talking about. They are living in their own homes and are being exploited. The parents oftentimes have no idea what’s going on.
Hugh: Foster care is a big feeder as well, I understand. It happens everywhere else. It doesn’t just happen in Warrenton or Lynchburg.
Amelia: To those people over there, wherever it is. No, it happens right here, too. And right there.
Hugh: Probably people we know are involved in it. It’s a big business. I’ve been reading some numbers. It’s right below drug trafficking as far as revenue.
Amelia: $150 billion a year, second only to drug trafficking.
Hugh: We’re sitting here thinking, “Oh, that’s too bad.” You joined RAGAS. Amelia, I am just an ordinary person, and I don’t see this, so why should I care? What can I do?
Amelia: It’s not uncommon that you don’t see this because it’s hidden in plain sight. If it can happen in your own house at your own dining room table, and you don’t know it’s happening, it is hidden in plain sight. When you think of kids who are coming home, it’s not unlikely that you’ve seen this, whether it’s in your own home, around your Thanksgiving table, in the grocery store, or at church. You most likely have seen it and never caught it because you don’t know what you’re looking at. That’s why raising awareness is so important.
Looking for signs. In your own home, you may see kids who are all of a sudden more withdrawn and moody. You might see tattoos, cutting, bruises, or things that are out of the ordinary and don’t make sense. They might have a new fancy phone or new fancy clothes or makeup or other things that are unexplained. It doesn’t make sense why they have these things. Their personalities may be changing. They may have a whole new set of friends. Or they have a new boyfriend or girlfriend that is taking up all of their time. If that person doesn’t want to meet you, doesn’t want to be part of your life, never makes that inroad to get to know the family. All of those things are signs.
Are they conclusive? Absolutely not. Teenagers are teenagers. Teenagers change friends. They get new things. They might go through moody experiences and hormonal things. Is it conclusive that your kid changed personality, and they are caught up in trafficking? Not necessarily.
Have conversations with these kids. Get to know them, whether they are your own kids or a niece or nephew or a neighbor or somebody at church that you’re seeing something going on. Get to know them. Ask them questions. Ask them open-ended questions. Find out what’s going on in their lives. What is changing? What are they looking forward to?
With trafficking victims, they can’t plan their future because they don’t know what their future is. If they are so well-groomed, their future is only what they’re being told their future is. If you ask them about their future plans, they have no idea.
If you start asking those questions and being that safe person to them, then you have a better chance of being able to pick up on something. Because kids love to open up to their family (haha), chances are that they are not going to open up to their family member, but if you have other people around them, whether it’s clergy, teachers, coaches, or other friends’ parents that can be that safe person for your kids and the kids in your life, or if you can be that person for somebody else’s kids, you have a better chance of being able to catch this and do something about it.
Hugh: You don’t all of a sudden as a teenager start showing interest in your child’s life. It’s a lifelong relationship of building and being there for them. You talked about grooming. How does grooming happen? There are so many opportunities for impressionable young people to get pulled aside.
Amelia: My oldest daughter is 10. I was shocked to find out the average age of a trafficking victim is 12 years old. This means that they are getting them as young as six and as old as 18 or more if your average age in America is 12 years old. think about how vulnerable 12-year-olds are, 10-year-olds, eight-year-olds, or six-year-olds.
Groomers and traffickers will become whomever and whatever it is that that victim needs. They will look for those vulnerabilities, whether it’s because parents are going through a divorce, or they don’t feel pretty, or they don’t feel they have enough friends, or whatever is going on in their lives. Maybe they’re a foster kid, or somebody who is a habitual runaway. They will become that stable person in their life to be able to fill that void. Scouting early and figuring out what those vulnerabilities are. From there, being able to fill in. Grooming is incredible when you start looking at how well they groom to be able to do whatever it is that kid needs. Some of these victims are adults, too. It’s not just children.
Hugh: The average age is 12. They go into this dark place. Do they come out?
Amelia: You hope so. Being a banker, I’m an average person and a numbers person. This is a dangerous thing when you’re me because all I do is run numbers constantly. I can spit out a lot of data. The average length of time in trafficking is 2.5 years. You hope that you catch them in time.
Another number that stood out to me when I was going through all of this is the average life span of a trafficking victim is seven years. From when they get out, it’s seven years, live or die. Either you get them out, and you get them restored. Or they usually end up dead. Whether it’s because of drugs or suicide or whatever is going on in their life, that takes them. STDs are out there. The physical and mental effects. It’s not like they just pop out of it after 2.5 years and are back to normal. It’s frightening.
Hugh: It’s like coming back from being in a war for military. You’re in shock. There are lots of reasons that we need to care.
What I value about Rotary is the activities have a whole lot of structure, accountability, and integrity behind them. if you give money to a Rotary project, there is end-to-end accountability. In order for money to go somewhere, there has to be a valid Rotary club that is responsible for dispensing the money and doing the project.
Let’s talk a little bit about what the ordinary person can do. There is a “Join Us” button on the RAGAS website. When you click that button, what happens?
Amelia: You can fill out your information, and we allow non-Rotary members to join RAGAS, which is pretty cool. You don’t have to be a Rotarian to be a member of us, to be able to contribute to the cause. Most of our members obviously are Rotary members because that is our mainstay of where we attract people.
Once a person joins, they has access to our newsletter, and they have access to all of our CAPE plans with a road map to walk through from the time they listen to this podcast and go, “Man, I want to do something about that” to getting their Rotary club, if they are a Rotarian, or their community involved to how to create stakeholder groups to how to do community conversations. What do those agendas look like? Who can you invite to those?
How do I bring in curriculum to my schools? If I want to bring in curriculum, what’s good curriculum versus bad curriculum? We put together a criteria of curriculum. Here is what the gold standard is in the U.S. for curriculum, which the U.S. is ahead of the curve in many ways when it comes to trafficking. We, meaning RAGAS members who do this for a living, not bankers like me, went through and vetted curriculums. Here are some that we know and trust and meet these criteria. This makes it so people don’t have to reinvent the wheel like I did. We made it very straightforward and simple so that soup to nuts, a member can walk right through and have that support that they need.
They also are able to reach out to other members for mentoring and to walk through and say, “What are you doing? What worked for you? What were those stumbling blocks for you, so I can avoid them?”
Hugh: Here is a warning. You have two upcoming Rotary club presidents. We are going to say to you one way to get involved is in your local Rotary club and be involved in this initiative. Rotary clubs have lots of really good programs that they do. You could be the champion in your town and build an awareness. What does that look like, Amelia? You could join a Rotary. You could just be a program member. You don’t have to come to every meeting. You could work on a specific program. There are different levels of membership. What is the advantage of being part of a Rotary? Our motto is service above self.
Amelia: You’re going to give me a soapbox on Rotary. I’m also a district governor nominee. Woo! I love it! The soapbox part is if you are interested in Rotary, go to Rotary.org. You can put in the club locator and find a club wherever you are in the world. Whether you’re in Boise, Idaho or Timbuktu or hanging out in Nepal, wherever you are, you can find a Rotary club in darn near every country around the world.
If there isn’t one in your local community, we have e-clubs, too. There are three I know of that are working specifically on this project. They have members from all over the world that are only meeting online about human trafficking and slavery.
There are all sorts of different ways to plug into Rotary. I believe that being a member in your local community is the most beneficial because those are the people you will serve with. Those are the people you break bread with. Those are the people you have the opportunity that if you are putting together, like we did the Fauquier Anti-Sex Trafficking Alliance, I was able to bring in our chief of police, our Department of Social Services, our school superintendent, and many other people into that project and into Rotary because we can break bread on a regular basis. You build a level of trust when you see each other, whether you’re meeting weekly or bi-weekly or even once a month because you schedule is so full. You can find ways to plug in, especially if you’re right there. If you’re not working on anti-slavery stuff, you might go pack backpacks for kids or serve meals. There are so many other things you can do at Rotary beyond just this.
Hugh: Every single initiative has value. If you have an excuse why you don’t want to join a Rotary, we have an answer to that objection. There is a way for you to be involved. It’s good people doing good stuff together.
I served small to mega churches my whole career for 40 years. It wasn’t until I left that profession, because we did these kinds of projects, that I had the bandwidth to join a Rotary in 2006. Since I did, it’s been a new area of ministry for me in building relationships around things that matter.
We’re a nonprofit. We’re not allowed to do a call of action. That was not a call of action. That was a step up to your own passion. Human trafficking and human slavery, are those interchangeable?
Amelia: Yeah. Depends on where you are in the world. When we were doing our CAPE plan- I had the honor of leading that strategic planning process for RAGAS because I was the least qualified person in the room. I’m not an expert. Y’all are experts. Let me be the leader of this. That was one of the major points of contention and conversation. Much of the world sees this as modern slavery. In the U.S., we tend to call it human trafficking. Everything is modern slavery/human trafficking because it depends on where you are, but it’s the same thing.
Hugh: It is. People are locked up, and they are forced to do things against their will. They don’t have freedom of choice. It’s modern-day slavery, and the number was over 40 million.
Amelia: Yep, 40.3 million worldwide.
Hugh: In all of those different forms. You have done a very efficient job of communicating a lot of data in a very understandable way.
I want to call people’s attention back to RAGAS.online. You can join for a very small amount of money and get the information you need. Then investigate your local Rotary. There is e-memberships and other kinds of memberships if you don’t want to go to a meeting every week. There are other ways to be engaged. Rotary is a really good place to connect with people around common causes. This is one of them, but this is certainly one we are ignoring. There is not much conversation or visibility in the church world or nonprofit world in my community. In other worlds, people refer to it, but there is no real engagement about what you can do to make a difference. This is a starting point. Get the facts. Figure out what you can plug in to and help other people understand.
Amelia, we have covered a lot of data. Is there anything we haven’t covered that you want to get out there before we end this really helpful podcast?
Amelia: I’m sure there is, but I can’t think of what it is right now. I will say that I appreciate the plug for Rotary and for RAGAS. Just the ability to have a group of like-minded people that can come around something this big because I don’t think one person alone can solve this. It takes each of us to step in and take that bite of the elephant to be able to make this happen. Having an organization like Rotary or RAGAS makes it so that each individual can do their part by plugging into that bigger machine. I appreciate you, and I appreciate the opportunity.
Hugh: We appreciate you being here to tell the story. Amelia Stansell, thank you for being our guest today on The Nonprofit Exchange.
Amelia: My pleasure, thank you.